Australian visa priority processing updated

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have announced a new priority structure for processing Australian visa applications. The new structure simplifies the previous one, which included many different categories of applications.

DIAC’s new priority structure follows the implementation of a new Skilled Occupations List (SOL) and the revocation of the Critical Skills List, amongst other changes that took place on 1 July, 2010. It now consists of four distinct priority groups, as follows:

Applications from people who are employer sponsored under the Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS) or Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) Processing Priority Group 1
Applications from people who are nominated by a state or territory government agency with a nominated occupation that is specified on that state or territory’s State Migration Plan. Processing Priority Group 2
Applications from people who have nominated an occupation on the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL). Processing Priority Group 3
All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received. Processing Priority Group 4

The new priority structure affects all applications that have not yet been finalised, regardless of the time they were lodged or the point to which they had been processed.

Since no state or territory in Australia has released their State Migration Plan occupation lists, it is not yet possible for any application to qualify under priority group 2. Until such time, all applications will be processed according to the nominated occupation. If that occupation appears on the SOL (Schedule 3), that application will qualify under group 3. If it does not, the application will fall under group 4.

Once State Migration Plans are announced, any applicant who already holds state sponsorship from a state that also includes their occupation on the new State Migration Plan occupation list will automatically change priority groupings to priority group 2. According to DIAC’s announcement, no re-application for sponsorship will be necessary and the new priority status will be applied by default.

Although we recognise that there is more work for DIAC to do in order to process the many thousands of applications that have been kept waiting and caught out by the numerous changes within the last year and beyond, we view this as a positive step forward from DIAC. The priority structure is undoubtedly simpler, and many applicants – particularly those who are already state sponsored – are in a good position to move even further forward in the queue if their state’s migration plan accommodates their occupation.

DIAC have yet to release specific timeframes for each category, so it is not yet known how long each group can expect to wait, although it has been made clear that applications under priority group 4 can expect a "very long wait" before finalisation, possibly a timeframe of three years from the point of lodgement.

Further blogs will follow shortly outlining where this leaves other types of applications, and clarify any questions that applicants may have at this time.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.